Bid to boost phone and internet coverage comes unstuck

SNAIL’S PACE: Clarke Creek State School students Cameron Hill, 6, Max, 9 and Franko Deveson, 7 and Lydia Hill, 9, use the school iPads but internet speeds limit what they can do online.
SNAIL’S PACE: Clarke Creek State School students Cameron Hill, 6, Max, 9 and Franko Deveson, 7 and Lydia Hill, 9, use the school iPads but internet speeds limit what they can do online. Kathleen Calderwood

A SMALL community's bid for better mobile phone and internet coverage has come to an abrupt halt after local mining companies failed to pledge their support.

Clarke Creek is a farming community of 100 people an hour's drive west of Marlborough. The school has 20 students from properties around the district and, despite being well equipped, dial-up speed internet hinders their efforts.

The Clarke Creek Community Reference Group (CCCRG) has been campaigning for improved service for two years. It approached Telstra who advised it wouldn't be commercially viable to build a tower, so it began looking for avenues to raise funds.

Elizabeth Hill, mother of two children at the school and CCCRG member, said the move was spurred on by lack of access for the students. "The driving factor was the school - there's a lot of meetings (held there). It's hard for the principal, it's a hard enough job as it is," she said.

"There's some instances where it's taken them 18 hours to download documents and stuff like that. It's really frustrating for the kids because they can't get on to the internet because they're sitting waiting half an hour for it to link. They're missing out on what they should be getting."

The plan was to apply for a Regional Development Australia (RDA) grant through Issac Regional Council and the CCCRG thought it had a chance, provided it could source half the cost. Telstra had committed to building the infrastructure if the required $444,000 could be raised.

However, the mining companies they had hoped would support them failed to pledge their contributions before last Friday's deadline, despite BMA and Anglo previously attending community meetings.

CCCRG member Lynise Conaghan said they had identified many mining vehicles using local roads when they recently surveyed traffic.

"We got quite excited," she said. "Round three (of RDA funding) is for community benefit projects up to $500,000.

"We were quite hopeful the mines would help us - 37% of the vehicles were identifiable mining vehicles - that didn't take into account the miners in private vehicles.

"We've had zero response and the cut-off was last Friday. "We really thought we'd have a great chance. There's no point now."

Topics:  clarke creek community reference group, internet, marlborough, mobile phone coverage



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